Blackened Salmon with Cilantro Lime Butter

5 from 2 votes
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This blackened salmon recipe with cilantro lime butter may be the easiest and most delicious salmon recipe you’ll ever make. I love this recipe because it’s citrusy, salty, and a little spicy. This recipe is incredibly easy to make and it’s ready in about 20 minutes!

Golden blackened salmon filets in a cast iron skillet topped with herb butter and a lime wedge.

Blackening is a Cajun-style technique involving generously seasoning meat with a blend of spicy, smokey dry spices and pan-searing or grilling on high heat. It renders the meat with a dark caramelized crust due to the rub of spices. Also, see my blackened salmon with mango salsa recipe and cilantro lime chicken thighs!

My simple cilantro lime butter provides the ultimate complementary finishing touch to the dish. Just imagine garlic, lime zest, butter, and fresh cilantro infused with every bite. You can make this a full meal by serving with brussel sprouts or over my cilantro lime rice!

Why I Love This Recipe

Thanks to the rub of spices and pan searing in a hot skillet, the salmon’s exterior develops a nicely charred blackened crust and a juicy tender inside.

The cilantro lime butter adds a lot of fresh flavors and a creamy buttery finish to help balance the spicy caramelized exterior. It’s a refreshing final touch that adds citrus and enhances the overall texture.

If you enjoyed this recipe, you should also try my popular garlic butter steelhead trout in foil, which has a very similar flavor profile to salmon. Also, take a look at my delicious bourbon-glazed salmon or my salmon piccata recipe.

Tips for Blackening Salmon

It’s easy to make homemade blackening seasoning with common household spices such as paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, brown sugar, dried thyme, oregano, and cayenne pepper. There are also a handful of pre-made blackening spices out there, Old Bay being one of my favorites and most accessible.

It’s important to generously coat all four sides of a salmon filet in blackening seasoning for ultimate flavor and punch. Be sure to get skinless filets so you can season all sides. Some premade blackening seasoning can be a little spicy and or salty, so be sure to taste a little before using. Most of the time, you won’t need to add any additional salt to the dish.

Ingredients

Raw, uncooked blackened salmon ingredients laid out on a wooden cutting board.
  • Salmon filets: look for salmon filets that are roughly 1-1.5 inches thick and 6-8 ounce portions with the skin removed.
  • blackening seasoning: make your own with paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, brown sugar, dried thyme, oregano, and cayenne pepper, or use Old Bay or similar. Save the extra for my blackened salmon tacos!
  • Canola or vegetable oil: these oils have higher smoke points so they’re ideal for searing at hot temps. You can use olive oil or butter but be prepared for smoke.
  • Butter: salted or unsalted can be used for the cilantro lime butter. Just be sure to let warm on the counter for 60+ minutes. You can alternatively heat in the microwave in 5-second intervals with the wrapper still on.
  • Garlic: the best way to prepare garlic for compound butter is with a microplane. It will nearly cream the garlic into a paste that easily mixes.
  • Lime zest: lime zest and juice add a burst of citrus to the fish and compound butter. You can optionally use lemon as well.
  • Cilantro: cilantro has a very distinct profile that adds flavor and freshness. If you don’t like cilantro, substitute for fresh parsley.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities below.

How To Blacken Salmon

Step 1.

Leave butter on the counter to soften until easily maluble. Add softened butter, garlic, cilantro, and lime zest to a small bowl (image 1a). Mix until combined. Serve soft for easy scooping or store in the fridge for later (image 1b).

Softened whole butter, lime zest, minced cilantro, and minced garlic in a small bowl.
Mixed compound herb butter with cilantro garlic and lime zest.

Quick tIP

If you don’t have time to soften the butter, you can heat it in the microwave in 5-second intervals with the wrapper still on. 2-3 times is all you need for the perfect texture.

Step 2.

Combine all blackening season ingredients in a small bowl or container (image 2a) and mix to incorporate (image 2b). This recipe makes 6 tablespoons so you will have plenty extra.

Unmixed blackening seasoning spices organized in a small glass bowl.
Mixed blackening seasoning in a small bowl.

Step 3.

Generously season each salmon filet with blackening seasoning until fully coated on all sides. Squeeze fresh lime juice over each side of each filet and rub it into the salmon. Note: premade blackening seasoning tends to be salty. If you’re salt-sensitive, I’d recommend using a thin dusting.

3 uncooked salmon filets coated in blackening seasoning.

Step 4.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. Once the pan starts to smoke, sear the salmon, undisturbed, for 3-4 minutes (image 4a). Flip and sear for 3-4 more minutes (image 4b). For medium doneness (slightly pink silky center), the salmon should be done. For more well-done salmon that is flakey throughout, sear for 4-5 minutes per side.

Uncooked salmon coated in blackening spices searing in a cast iron skillet.
Golden blackened salmon cooked in a cast iron skillet.

Quick Tip

For best results, avoid overcooking the salmon, as surpassing 145°F will lead to a tougher and drier texture.

Step 5.

Plate and top each salmon filet with a spoonful of cilantro lime butter and serve with a lime wedge and additional chopped cilantro.

Golden blackened salmon filets in a cast iron skillet topped with herb butter and a lime wedge.

Salmon Internal Temperature

Similar to steak, salmon can be cooked to varying degrees of doneness (medium-rare, medium, or well-done).

For a medium-rare to medium finish, target an internal temperature of 125°F to 135°F upon removing it from the heat source. The residual heat will continue the cooking process as it rests. This will render a juicy silky center.

For well-done or fully cooked through salmon, remove from the heat just before 145°F. Salmon will be firm throughout and easily flake apart when tested with a fork. Per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the thickest section of cooked salmon should attain a minimum internal temperature of 145°F. Use a digital thermometer if you’re unsure.

I don’t recommend cooking salmon over 145°F as it tends to dry out and get tough. 130°F is the sweet spot.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is blackened salmon?

Blackened salmon is seared or grilled salmon that’s been generously seasoned in a blend of dried spices.

is blackened salmon spicy?

Blackened salmon is loaded with spices but it’s not necessarily spicy. My recipe is mildly spicy but it largely depends on the spice blend you use.

What is the best oil to blacken fish with?

I prefer to use canola, vegetable, or grapeseed oil because they have higher smoke points. Butter and olive oil tend to add the most flavor.

Expert Tips

  • Do not move, prod, or poke salmon while cooking. Leave it alone to let a nice golden crust form.
  • This recipe works best in a cast iron skillet or stainless steel pan.
  • You can alternatively grill the salmon for 3-4 minutes per side on medium-high heat. Just be sure to grease the grates well to ensure it doesn’t stick to the grates.

More Salmon Recipes

Enjoy this recipe? If you made this recipe, please leave a ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ star rating in the recipe card below & a review in the comments!
5 from 2 votes

Blackened Salmon with Cilantro Lime Butter Recipe

Servings: 2
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Simple blackened salmon topped with garlicky cilantro-lime compound butter.

Ingredients 

  • 2-3 6-8 ounce salmon filets, skin removed
  • 2-3 tablespoons blackening seasoning, such as Old Bay
  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • lime wedges for serving

Cilantro lime butter

  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced or grated
  • 1 lime, zested
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, finely minced

Homemade blackening seasoning (makes 6 tablespoons)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
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Instructions 

  • Leave butter on the counter to soften until easily maluble. Add softened butter, garlic, cilantro, and lime zest to a small bowl. Mix until combined. Serve soft for easy scooping or store in the fridge for later.
  • Combine all blackening season ingredients in a small bowl or container and mix to incorporate. This recipe makes 6 tablespoons so you will have plenty extra.
  • Generously season each salmon filet with blackening seasoning until fully coated on all sides. Squeeze fresh lime juice over each side of each filet and rub it into the salmon. Note: premade blackening seasoning tends to be salty. If you’re salt-sensitive, I’d recommend using a thin dusting.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. Once the pan starts to smoke, sear the salmon, undisturbed, for 3-4 minutes. Flip and sear for 3-4 more minutes. For medium doneness (slightly pink silky center), the salmon should be done. For more well-done salmon that is flakey throughout, sear for 4-5 minutes per side.
  • Plate and top each salmon filet with a spoonful of cilantro lime butter and serve with a lime wedge and additional chopped cilantro.

Notes

This recipe works best in a cast iron skillet. You can alternatively grill the salmon for 3-4 minutes per side on medium-high heat. Just be sure to grease the grates well to ensure it doesn’t stick.
Do not move, prod, or poke salmon while cooking. Leave it alone to let a crust form.

Nutrition

Serving: 1pieceCalories: 537kcalCarbohydrates: 10.6gProtein: 51.8gFat: 34.1gSaturated Fat: 13.4gCholesterol: 158mgSodium: 241mgFiber: 4.1gSugar: 2g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Cajun
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About Shawn Williams

My name is Shawn, author behind Kitchen Swagger. I'm a food & drink enthusiast bringing you my own simple and delicious restaurant-inspired recipes.

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Recipe Rating




10 Comments

    1. Hard to substitute but you could try basil! It’s a totally different flavor but equally as good on salmon.

  1. 5 stars
    I made his tonight and holy Mack. It’s so good! We made grilled corn on the cob and put some of the cilantro lime butter on it. AMAZING!

    1. Thanks Kate – the cilantro lime butter is like nothing else! Awesome idea with the corn – will have to give that a try.

  2. 5 stars
    Shawn! After I tried your bewitching pan seared filets, I invested in a cast iron skillet. Used it for the blackened salmon…heavenly! I used Old Bay, but only a scant teaspoon per filet. Here’s my conundrum. I’d like to make both, the filets and the salmon for guests tomorrow night. I have one cast iron skillet. Any advice on preparation and timing?

    1. This sounds like a cooking show challenge. Great question. I have never tried this but here is what I’m thinking/some thoughts to consider. You could probably cook the salmon and steaks in the same skillet and follow the 2-2-6 filet method. The salmon will most likely cook at the same rate, maybe a little faster depending on how you like your salmon. I would cook your steaks as you would and pretend the salmon isn’t even there. My biggest worry is not the cook times conflicting, but the juices mixing in the skillet. The butter and steak run off could interfere with the salmon flavors and vise versa. Not sure if this will be issue or not for your guests. Alternatively you could use a regular non-stick pan for the salmon and leave the skillet for the steak. The cast iron skillet is my favorite, but you can blacken fish using a regular pan with very similar results. You could grill the salmon as a third option. And fourth… buy a second cast iron skillet 😉 I have 3! I hope this helps and good luck, Michele!

  3. Thank you this looks very appealing and will certainly be cooking this, I have checked with a few retail shops but cannot find Old bay seasoning any suggestions.